Alternative Inca trails

Are you a hardcore hiker or a walker looking for a more languid stroll around Peru's Sacred Valley and beyond? Find the route that's right for you.

By Ben Lerwill
Published 25 Sept 2015, 16:00 BST, Updated 5 Jul 2021, 11:06 BST

Choquequirao Route
Route: Following age-old paths on a spectacular nine-day journey through the Peruvian Andes, the route begins with a crossing of the wild Apurímac Canyon before reaching Choquequirao, a large Inca settlement complete with terraces, temples and ruined buildings. From here, the trail passes through the yawning valleys and far-flung villages of the Vilcabamba mountain range before reaching Urubamba, from where a short train ride takes you to Aguas Calientes, the base camp for Machu Picchu.

Highlight: The chance to explore a large and ancient Incan site in virtual solitude: Choquequirao can only be reached by a two-day walk. There are some long and gruelling climbs and descents involved. Heaven for some, an ordeal for others.

How to do it: KE Adventure offers a 13-day itinerary, with four nights staying in hotels or lodges, including a nine-day mule-supported mountain trek past Choquequirao and on towards Machu Picchu. The route starts and finishes in Cusco. Most meals are included and the group size is capped at 16. From £1,295, excluding flights.

Quarry Trek
Route: Also known as the Soqma, Chaski Trek or Cachiqata, this is a 16-mile undertaking usually spread across three days. Beginning in the town of Rafqa, the path leads up to Perolniyoc, an Inca ruin close to a waterfall, then continues over a series of soaring mountain passes.

Highlight: This is often the quietest of all the options available here.

How to do it: Action Peru Treks has a guided, four-day trek along the route, culminating in a visit to Machu Picchu. From £381 per person.

Salkantay Trek
This five-day hike follows an epic path — mountains and lowland jungle — between the town of Mollepata and Machu Picchu. You begin with a climb to the 15,223ft-high Salkantay Pass, before continuing through lush landscapes to Lucmabamba and the hot springs of Santa Teresa.

Highlight: There's the option to stay in high-end mountain lodges throughout (think down duvets and wine lists).

How to do it: Rainbow Tours offers the 14-day Inca Heartland & Salkantay Trek from £3,825 per person, including flights.

Ausangate Circuit Trek
This uncrowded trail leads for eight days through the peaks of the Cordillera Vilcanota, rising to 16,568ft as it winds towards Machu Picchu. Highlights include lakeside campsites and the hot springs at Pacchanta, but it's the views that take top billing. The near-circular trek takes its name from the mountain of Ausangate, whose 20,944ft flanks are passed en route.

Highlight: The rugged highland scenery, turquoise pools and snow-capped summits.

How to do it: Adventure Peaks has an 11-day Ausangate itinerary, from £1,075 land only.

Lares Trek
Tracing a peaceful 34-mile path through the High Andes, the trek takes its name from the Lares Valley, the start point and navigates two 14,760ft-plus mountain passes, as
well as some glorious lake and waterfall views. Alpaca herds are a common sight and the trail also passes through several villages.

Highlight: You'll find plenty of natural beauty and precious few crowded paths.

How to do it: Tucan Travel's six-day Lares Valley Trek package is from £729 per person, excluding flights.

Published in the South America guide, distributed with the October 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)


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